There’s No Defending Bayh

I guess I should be happy enough that Evan Bayh has decided to take the occassion of his retiring in the face of Congressional dysfunction to call out the filibuster, but like apparently everyone else I can only muster one reaction; if Bayh thinks this is so serious, why isn’t he staying around to change things? Like everything else in Bayh’s political career, it’s a nice sounding quote that makes him look serious about tackling problems, but when push comes to shove he’s just not interested in tangling himself up in the nuts and bolts of doing anything legislatively. You can say similar things about this “defense” of Bayh from Jon Alter:

I’m not sure people realize just how much the failure of health care demoralized Evan Bayh. As I learned in reporting for my upcoming book, The Promise: President Obama, Year One, out in May, White House aides David Axelrod and Jim Messina visited the Senate just before the August recess last year and left feeling much better after hearing from Bayh. He made them feel that the politics of getting reelected demanded passage of the bill, which at the time looked iffy. “We’re all screwed if you don’t get something real on health care,” Bayh told them. This made Axelrod and Messina think that the moderates would be on board.

That’s nice and all, but it leads to an obvious question: if Bayh thought healthcare reform was so important, why didn’t he stand up and fight for it? After all, the process would have been helped immensely by having someone with Bayh’s centrist credentials with the establishment press defending the effort and voicing full support for reform. Especially when the Senate was deliberating over the bill, a strong defense from Bayh actually could have made a big difference. Except, Bayh was basically silent on healthcare reform. So color me less impressed than Alter. And consider most of my impressions of Bayh reinforced; he’s a lazy, disinterested office holder who was only interested in being a legislator to the extent it helped him become President. He was never interested in doing anything with the office. Hell, his name wasn’t even on the vaunted budget commission he’s reportedly pissed didn’t clear a Senate vote. Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg did the lifting on that.

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